Anger at Erdogan sympathy – Özdemir calls for “turning point”
Erdogan can continue to rely on his fans in Germany. Many don’t like that. Others, on the other hand, find that pointing the finger at those entitled to vote in Germany is the wrong way to go.
After Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s election victory in Turkey, the renewed high level of approval among eligible voters in Germany caused a dispute. Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir called for a “turning point” in German Turkey policy. “In dealing with Putin, we saw what happens when you sugarcoat a situation,” the Greens politician told journalists in Solingen, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The chairman of the Turkish community in Germany, Gökay Sofuoglu, protested against the “bashing” of voters and saw German politicians as having a duty.
In the run-off election for the Turkish presidency, Erdogan narrowly won, taking about a two-thirds majority among the approximately 1.5 million eligible voters in Germany. According to the state news agency Anadolu, 67.2 percent of the votes cast in consulates in Germany went to Erdogan. His challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu got 32.8 percent. A good 760,000 people cast their votes in Germany, which corresponds to a turnout of around 50.4 percent.
Thousands of supporters in Germany on the streets
When Erdogan’s victory became apparent on Sunday evening, thousands of supporters took to the streets in many German cities. In Berlin, Duisburg, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Ulm, Mainz, Saarbrücken, Munich and Hof, among others, cars honking their horns and decorated with Turkish flags drove through the streets. According to the police, it was mostly peaceful. In Mannheim, however, there were arguments. In Dortmund, too, some revelers clashed with the police. In many cities there were also ads – for example for traffic offenses or the ignition of pyrotechnics. In Munich alone, 94 traffic offenses were reported.
Özdemir said the loud cheering of many Erdogan supporters in German cities sent a disturbing signal. “They honk because someone has won an election that is turning the country into a kind of open prison while at the same time they enjoy the benefits of a liberal democracy here.” When young Turks celebrate Erdogan’s victory so exuberantly, it is “at the same time a rejection of coexistence here, a rejection of liberal democracy,” said Özdemir. “We are in danger of losing these people,” he warned. That is why politicians must ensure that young people of Turkish origin are reached in schools – with a system in which educational success is not linked to the origin of the parents.
He demanded: “The turning point, which thank God we finally have in dealing with Putin, is now also needed in dealing with Turkish ultra-nationalism, it is now also needed in dealing with fundamentalism.” The foreign policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Jürgen Hardt, described the voting behavior in Germany in the “Rheinische Post” as “strange”. “Apparently they don’t want the plurality and variety of opinions that they enjoy in Germany for their second home,” he said.
After the election victory, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) wrote to Erdogan on Twitter that Germany and Turkey were close partners and allies – there were also strong social and economic ties. “Now we want to advance our common issues with renewed vigour,” he wrote.
“Demonizing the population is useless”
Yunus Ulusoy from the Center for Turkish Studies in Essen said with regard to voting behavior in Germany: “The demonization of the population – that’s no use. You have to understand the motives for voting. The more we insult people, the more we drive them into the hands of Erdogan .” Sofuoglu from the Turkish community said: “You could also win over people who are so politicized, who are so active in politics, to German politics.” German politicians have missed a lot.
In the first ballot two weeks ago, Erdogan had already clearly won the German-Turkish vote with 65.5 percent of the votes. In the 2018 election it was 64.8 percent.
Ulusoy said the result naturally says something about the attitude of the German-Turks. He emphasized, however, that only just under 1.5 million of the approximately 2.8 million people of Turkish origin in Germany are entitled to vote – especially the first and second generation of those who came from Turkey in the course of labor migration. Many of them come from the Anatolian heartland with a predominantly conservative religious lifestyle. Many younger people only have German citizenship – but Turkish citizenship is also required to be eligible to vote.
Ulusoy explained that even among the younger generation there was sometimes a defiant attitude: some hurtful experiences had been made that being a Turk or a Muslim was not very important in Germany. Erdogan succeeds very well in recognizing this value, emphasizing their affiliation with Turkey and addressing their emotions. In addition, Erdogan has a powerful organizational structure in Germany.